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Monday, August 24, 2009

MRB plans to cash in some land bank assets

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) plans to monetise some of its existing land bank assets, especially those in the Klang Valley, to support the increasingly high operating costs in terms of research and development, patents and information on manufactured rubber goods.

Datuk Dr Kamarul Baharain Basir says MRB’s major research achievement is in tissue culture and genetic transformation.

Its director-general Datuk Dr Kamarul Baharain Basir said MRB currently had an estimated RM1bil of land bank assets nationwide.

“The Government has strongly urged MRB to follow in the footsteps of major corporations and government-linked companies, which have either sold or leased their holdings like buildings or land bank, to monetise their non-core assets,” he told StarBiz.

Kamarul said MRB was now working closely with its property cooperative to look at how best to monetise its land bank assets in prime locations like Sungei Buloh and Jalan Ampang.

“We are keen to develop part of our 1,700ha Rubber Research Institute in Sungei Buloh into commercial centres.

“However, our development (in Sungei Buloh) must not duplicate the nearby Selangor Vision City development,” he said.

Having said that, MRB also does not want to see too much depletion in its assets as it strives to generate regular income to support its operations.

Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, the Government has allocated RM113mil for MRB, which is the statutory authority for the management of the country’s rubber industry.

“We plan to seek a higher allocation of about RM300mil under the 10th Malaysia Plan but we don’t know how much we will get this time,” he said.

According to Kamarul, MRB is the world’s most “referred” rubber organisation among international rubber set-ups seeking information on the upstream, midstream and downstream activities in the industry.

“Our core activities are in research and innovation in both upstream and downstream, crop management, improvement and protection as well as in biotechnology,” he said, adding that MRB’s major research achievement was in tissue culture and genetic transformation.

“We were able to create a transgenic rubber tree that can enhance crop productivity, production of valuable protein in the latex and has bigger girth tree trunk for timber production as well as high resistance to diseases,” he said.

MRB recently launched its latest high-yield rubber clone, the RRIM 3001, which can boost latex production to over 2,000kg per hectare a year compared with the average yield of 1,430kg in 2008. When mature, the RRIM 3001 tree could also be a good “rubber timber” source for the local furniture industry.

“Currently, rubber timber represents 80% of the raw material used in the local furniture industry,” he said.

On another note, Kamarul said the price of natural rubber was tracking well with crude oil and that demand from China was encouraging. China takes up about 35% of Malaysia’s total natural rubber production.

He said tyre grade SMR 20, currently trading above RM6 per kg, boded well for rubber planters, as the cost of production was about RM3 per kg.

By The Star (by Hanim Adnan)

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